The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Williston Economic Development (WED) conducted their annual awards banquet at the Old Armory this past Friday.

The WED and SBDC offices choose finalists for the various categories each year. Members of the Western Region Economic Development Board of Directors, Williston City Commission, and Williston STAR Fund Board of Directors cast ballots for the candidates.

The following people were honored for their services to the Williston trade region's business community and quality of life.

Here are the 2023 Winners

· SBDC Woman Owned Business of the Year

Milestone Health Partners represented by owners Dr. Amanda Erickson, Dr. Alyssa Suess, and Dr. Lindy Kirby

· SBDC New Business of the Year

3 E Pastry Café represented by Emre Erkal and family

· SBDC Existing Business of the Year

Home Comforts represented by owners Dale and Bev Salmen

· SBDC Lender of the Year

Brent Schwan of First International Bank & Trust, Watford City

· SBDC Icon of the Year

Gary Sukut, founder of Williston’s SBDC office, entrepreneur, and former state legislator who helped secure funding to four-lane US Highway 2 between Minot and Williston

· SBDC Champion of the Year

Gene Veeder, longtime Watford City economic developer, elected official, and rancher

· WED Regional Business of the Year

The Links of North Dakota represented by Tom Powers and John Kasmer

· WED Community Partnership of the Year

Williston State College/University of Mary Articulation Agreement, represented by Dr. Bernell Hirning, WSC president and Monsignor James Patrick Shea, UMary president

· WED Icon of the Year

American State Bank & Trust represented by owners Pat and Tammy Sogard

· WED Agriculture Project of the Year

North Dakota State University Williston Research Extension Center Seed Cleaning Facility represented by Kyle Dragseth

· WED Ambassador of the Year

Jerry Bergman, longtime agriculturalist, former director of NDSU Williston Research Extension Center and Montana State University Eastern Agricultural Research Center

The WED awards were given out by Shawn Wenko, the recently hired city administrator, while the SBDC awards were given out by Keith Olson, the SBDC regional director, and WSC's Hirning.

Each recipient was given time to discuss their initiative. Gene Veeder, a rancher from Watford City who won the SBDC Champion of the Year award, said it was strange to come back to Williston and meet old friends and coworkers after taking an early retirement due to health problems.

“I came back to the community of Watford City years ago and went to work for First International Bank. My time in banking gave me the best understanding of what needs to happen in economic development and how that ties in with the SBDC’s,” Veeder said.

Veeder, who spent 30 years fostering economic growth in Watford City, had some words of wisdom for like-minded people. "Surround yourself with smart people, champion them, give them credit, help them move forward, and help make it happen," he advised.

The relationship between the City of Williston and the SBDC dates back to 2015, when the Center for Development (formerly the Hess building) opened its doors at 113 4th Street East.

“The City of Williston recognized the importance of the relationship between the SBDC and WED and created office space within the Center for Development for the SBDC. The result has been a very successful partnership that has won awards and made both offices some of the highest volume offices in the state of North Dakota,” said Wenko.

The entire awards ceremony is available via video on WED’s Facebook page.

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